California’s New Color System for Reopening Plan Places Each County Per COVID-19 Status

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On Tuesday, 10 of California’s counties, including Santa Clara and Contra Costa districts, reverted to more restrictive tiers due to the sudden spike of new coronavirus cases in recent weeks. Due to the previously mentioned divisions’ relapses in the latest color system, reopening plans for all affected territories would suffer drawbacks and limitations in resuming activities during the pandemic.

According to the latest weekly evaluations, other Bay Area counties managed to retain their current tiers. San Francisco is one of those districts – with their ongoing attempts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the area, successfully remained in the restrictive yellow tier amidst high economic and secondary health outcomes. However, county administrators formerly announced that they would push through the delayed reopening plans due to the latest spikes in coronavirus cases across the state. 

Counties of San Mateo, Napa, Alameda, Santa Clara, and Marin all remained in the orange tier, the level with the second-fewest restrictions. Solano, Santa Cruz, and Contra Costa reverted to the red rank, while Sonoma moved to purple, the most restrictive color in the ranking system. San Diego, Stanislaus, and Sacramento also got placed in the purple layer, prohibiting indoor dining for the previously mentioned districts under the purple rank.

As of August 28 of this year surrounding the nation’s new reopening scheme, a risk level would assign each county based on coronavirus measures over the past week. Purple tier (Rank 1) with wide-scale risk have the most restrictions, contrasting yellow level (Rank 4) consisting of minimal risk and few limitations. The state would conduct weekly evaluations on Bay Area counties to determine their tier placements.

There are three different metrics used to assess the counties’ tier statuses: test positivity rate, case rate, and health equity rate. All numbers are seven-day mediums with a seven-day gap. The following describes the tier placements, arranged from the most to the least restrictive levels:

Widespread: The most restrictive rank, this level requires a threshold of more than 8% of returning positive tests and more than seven new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population.

Substantial: Requires between 5-8% confirmed test estimate and between 4-7% new daily cases.

Moderate: Needs between 1-3.9% new cases and 2-4.9% positive test rate.

Minimal: The least restrictive level, this tier requires lower than 2% confirmed test estimate and fewer than 1% new cases.

Before advancing to the next tier, counties must remain in their respective ranks for a minimum period of three consecutive weeks and meet the requirements for each level in the color system. It is a fixed rule that counties move only one tier each time despite their results qualifying the thresholds for more advanced counties. Such requirements include a conclusive test rate and a new case estimate that ties between two varying indicators would move to the more restrictive rank. Counties reaching the minimum health equity rate for two consecutive weeks would advance to a less limited tier.

School reopenings would base their operating limitations on their counties’ tier statuses. Purple-tiered districts ban face-to-face classroom sessions unless local health departments sign a waiver permitting grades K-6 to resume physical school learning. Once a county avoids its placement on the purple tier for 14 consecutive days, the California School Sector Specific Guidelines would grant schools the eligibility to reopen their campuses for physical classroom sessions.

For business establishments and corporations, reopenings would depend on the counties’ current risk tiers. Despite these prerequisites, local officials would place the final decisions depending on the nation’s COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.